Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Is partial stealth good enough?

The debate about the F-35 continues to swirl as do questions about how long stealth will remain effective before computing power overtakes it.  We first saw the first hints of this from Boeing and the Russians...

Above you see the Silent Eagle and the Advanced Super Hornet.  Both are so called legacy fighters with treatments to lower their radar cross section.  Before you say that they did this simply to make the planes viable into the future don't forget about the judgement we saw from the Russians (below).

We don't know what designs were considered and then rejected by the Russians but we have to assume that they have the ability to build a real deal fully stealth airplane.  They chose not to.  Instead the PAK-FA, according to many knowledgeable sources, retains high speed, great range, outstanding high altitude capability and an enormous weapons load while having low observable characteristics.  Is it full stealth the way that we know it?  No it isn't.  But even the F-22 makes tradeoffs in that regard.

But what about my contention that design trends indicate that "full stealth" just isn't worth the cost.  Check out the Korean stealth fighter.

The S. Koreans are a capable people with advanced industry but in their design they've followed the trend of going for partial stealth and will hang pods and missiles from pylons.

The Japanese are making the same call.  We've seen depictions of their future stealth aircraft with pods, weapons and fuel tanks hanging from wing pylons headed to battle the Chinese....speaking of ....

The Chinese rolled out the J-20 and shocked the world.  A big, heavyweight fighter or striker (I have yet to hear anyone state with certainty its role) it definitely has stealth characteristics but also has canards.  From what I've been told about stealth, that is a big no no.  We can reasonably conclude that they've determined that partial stealth is enough.

Is the world right?  Is partial stealth good enough and the answer to preserving aircraft performance while limiting detection?  Is the conventional wisdom to maintain range, speed, height and agility more important than betting it all on stealth alone?

The world has spoken and they believe it is.

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